Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weekend Adventures: Portola Redwoods State Park, climbing and ballet!

On Sunday afternoon we finally got out to a "green spot on the map" for some hiking in Portola Redwoods State Park with our friends the Hoffmann's.  For Christmas we bought a CA State Park pass to help motivate us to get out and enjoy the beautiful spaces around us, but until this weekend, it's been too wet!  The waterfall was raging when we reached tiptoe falls at the end of our hike!
Amazing redwoods.  That tree is still alive!
The first time we hiked here there was just a drip of water!
Made it across without getting wet!
On Saturday Keanan had his second rock climbing competition.  He is competing in the NorCal Youth Climbing League with his climbing team and enjoying it.  There are 3 categories: bouldering, top-roping, and speed climbing.  So far Keanan's favorite is the speed climb. They have 3 competitions left this season and it will be fun to watch as he improves.
boulder route
Kyla spent Saturday at the ballet studio doing class and then dress rehearsal for her recital, Winter Interlude, next Saturday.
Last costume fitting
In a surprising turn of events, Zac was elected to our church council Sunday afternoon!  This is similar to a deacon or elder depending on the denomination.  Kind of like a board of directors in the secular world.  Please pray for him and the other council members to serve with wisdom over the next 4 years.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Nicaragua!

What an amazing trip!  We are still trying to process everything we saw and experienced and figure out what response is needed to some of the harder things.  It is impossible for me to share everything here, the pictures and videos do a much better job.  Here are some highlights from each of us:

Kyla: monkeys, Lake Apoyo, all the jewelry that the street vendors sell
Keanan: zip lining, seeing the kids, hiking to the waterfall
Zac: swimming in Lake Apoyo, visiting the Compassion center, talking with Kara from Beauty for Ashes
Jen: the kids (out at the dump, Maykelin, Carlos), fresh coconut, cacao seeds, and pineapple, and zip lining through the jungle

Lows/things we've learned: 3 beds are necessary for our family not 2 (no matter how large the bed is, the kids will fight about "sides"), it is a good idea to bring pepto bismal tablets, it is so hard not to use the faucet to brush your teeth, kids at the dump with no shoes, the amount of trash everywhere, jungle birds wake very early and are very noisy!
We flew from San Francisco to San Salvador and then our flight to Nicaragua got delayed by about 4 hours!
Day 1:
After the flight delay, the kids were super tired the next day!  We had a driver, Juilo, for the week since there are no road signs and the drivers in Nica are crazy!  He spoke little to no English which was good for practicing our Spanish.  :)
Standing at the edge of the Mayasa Volcano crater!  You could actually see the lava!
playing with rubber from the rubber tree
beautiful waterfall at the end of our jungle hike
 In the hammock outside our guest house.
Day 2:
The "√Ārboles de la vida" - trees of life, all over Managua
This is Pedro.  I think he is about 5.  He was working at the dump BAREFOOT and stepped on some glass when we were there.  Another little boy was also barefoot, but Kara told us she has given him many pairs of shoes.  The problem is his mom takes the shoes and sells them for drugs and alcohol.  Out hearts were broken.
This is Caterina and she is 12.  Such a sweet girl in such a horrible place.
As soon as we got to the dump the kids jumped all over Kara's car - hood, roof, sides.  They know she comes with water, snacks, and most of all love.
The girls really wanted me to take a selfie with them!  This is Francesca and Caterina. 
This sweet family that lives right outsides the dump was recently sponsored through Kara to build this new house - complete with metal walls and a concrete floor.  The previous house was cardboard, plastic, whatever they could find, and a dirt floor.  About 12-16 people will live here.
Day 3:
going zip lining!!
The monkeys were awesome to watch!
This is how we got off the zipline!  My video was the most entertaining...
Zac and the kids in the water.  Year round constant 84 degrees!
Enjoying the tropical weather from the shore.
Day 4:
Maykelin's family!  Their one room house was not much better than the ones we saw near the dump.  It was neat to see what they have done with the gifts we have sent.
Carlos's family.  Both kids live in the barrios - one of many slum type areas in Managua.  Very poor - but they are so filled with joy!
Kids are kids - no matter what county they live in.  Note: it's a cultural thing that the Nica kids don't smile in photos.
Yep.  I stole the baby!  Maykelin's 4 month old sister
Day 5:
Riding horses up to the cacao plantation.  They were in such sad shape :(
A cacao pod!  You can suck on the seeds - so sweet and yummy, like fruit.  It doesn't tasted like chocolate till it's fermented and dried.
lunch on the side of the mountain, Lake Nicaragua in the background
This bag of cacao beans is ready to ship to the USA!
This colt followed us up and down the mountain because one of the other horses was it's mom.  Kyla was the only one it would come up to!!
Oldest church in Central America - in Granada.
In summary:  Go on crazy adventures with your kids.  Sponsor a child.  https://www.compassion.com/ Visit that child.  If you can read this, pause and realize how blessed you are.  Do something about it - it is our privilege and responsibility. "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48  One way to respond is support Kara and her work in the dump with Beauty for Ashes: http://www.beautyforashesproject.org/

Nicaragua was wonderful, and it was hard.  Lord willing, we'll be back some day!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Prayer Requests - Nicaragua Trip

Many have asked "WHY are you going to Nicaragua?", so I thought I would answer that here.

The main purpose of our visit is these two beautiful kiddos:
Carlos is 8 and Maykelin is 6 (she has the EXACT same birthday as Kyla!)  We sponsor both of them through Compassion International and they attend the same Compassion Center in Managua, the capitol city of Nicaragua.  We are so excited to spend a day with them - meeting their families, visiting their houses, sharing a meal, seeing their school, and playing at a park.  Here's some info about Compassion's ministry in Managua: http://www.compassion.com/nicaragua/managua.htm

To prepare for our trip we have taken a break from our normal homeschool curriculum (countries and cultures) to study Nicaragua - a perfect fit!  During our research we came across the video below.  A family of four recording a series of videos of their time in Nicaragua!  They did not just experience the tourist stuff though, they wanted to do something that mattered - telling the stories of people in need.  The kids and I watched the entire series in one sitting.  My heart was especially touched by a ministry called Beauty for Ashes (video below).  I sent a message and heard back right away from the founder, Kara.  She has invited us to see their work, take snack and clean water to the trash dump, meet the kids, do some house visits, play and share Jesus' love.  We are so excited to meet Kara and the people she loves so beautifully.
The rest of our time in Nica will be spent zip lining through the jungle (same spot as in the video!), boat rides, horseback rides to a cacao plantation, peering over the edge of an active volcano crater, hiking to a jungle waterfall, shopping a local markets, and relaxing in hammocks and pools.

How you can pray:
- That we all stay healthy, before and during our travels.
- For a great visit with Carlos and Maykelin.  We especially pray for Keanan and Kyla to connect with them.
- Open hearts and eyes to see what Jesus is doing out at the dump and through Beauty for Ashes.
- We all can appreciate and experience the Nica culture.
- No sunburns or bug bites, especially Kyla.
- We can all relax and have some great family adventures.
- We can be a blessing and connect with our AirBnB hosts.
- We will faithfully respond to however God moves our hearts.

Gracias!  ¡Hasta luego!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Weekend Adventures: Painting and Rain

At the moment, it looks more like Washington that California around here - so much rain!  We had hoped to adventure out to a state park this weekend, but the rain and Zac and I suffering from horrible colds changed our plans.

Instead, Keanan and Zac were Lego hermits - lots of sorting and building.  After ballet class on Saturday morning Kyla and I redeemed her Christmas present and spent the afternoon painting pottery at Color Me Mine, and then getting pedicures!
Trying on costumes for the Winter Interlude
Kyla chose a fairy riding a unicorn
Drying our pretty toes!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Four Words for 2017

Happy New Year!  We rang in 2017 with about 30 people in our house!!  It was a great time of games, food, and fireworks with friends.  Bonus - no one caught on fire.

A new year means it is time for new words.  As is my tradition, I pray for a word for each of us to focus on for the year.  Let's review last years words:

Zac: PATIENCE 2016 was definitely a year of stretching Zac's patience with many crazy deadlines, moving from Kitty Hawk to Zee Areo to Otto and finally to Uber - it's been a bit crazy!

Jen: GENTLENESS I really wanted to focus on responding to the kids in a gentle way this year.  Some moments have been better than others, but overall I feel like God has grown me in this area during 2016.

Keanan: FAITHFULNESS Keanan has really shown his faithfulness in his consistency to Rock Monkeys and Lego Club - two of his favorite things.  He has also been growing in faithfulness by learning to own his mistakes and be a truth teller.

Kyla: KINDNESS Kyla has made some deeper friendships this year and it's been fun to watch her interact.  She has grown in her sweetness and kindness, although it's harder to see when interacting with Keanan!

And now for our 2017 words:

Zac: SEEK "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

Jen: LOVE "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:2

Keanan: PEACE "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18

Kyla: SHINE "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Happy 2017!  May the Lord bless you and keep you this year.  May He make His face to shine upon you and grant you peace!